December 14, 2007 Overview

Senate Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments

Senator Ron Calderon, Chair


Informational Hearing: Online Voter Registration and Other Innovations


November 28, 2007
10 a.m.
State Capitol, Room 113
Sacramento, California 95814 




The purpose of this informational hearing is to explore the feasibility of implementing online voter registration and other ways to make the voter registration process more convenient and efficient.

Currently, all voter registration in California utilizes a paper affidavit. While the Secretary of State and some educational institutions provide opportunities for qualified persons to partially complete a voter registration form online, a hard copy must still be printed out or sent to the affiant so he or she can affix a signature. Once the signature is affixed, it must be forwarded to the appropriate county elections official.

Since 2002, Arizona has permitted most eligible persons to register to vote over the Internet utilizing digitized signatures on file with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division. Only persons who have an Arizona driver’s license, identification card or driver’s license permit may utilize the online voter registration system. Utilizing the motor vehicle signatures makes it possible to complete the entire voter registration process over the internet thereby making it both convenient and virtually instantaneous. The state of Washington recently passed legislation to implement an online voter registration system which will go into effect January 1, 2008. The Washington legislation was modeled after the Arizona system.

NVRA or “Motor Voter”

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), commonly known as “motor voter” requires, among other things, that qualified individuals be given the opportunity to register to vote or update an existing voter registration while applying for or renewing a driver’s license.

The NVRA provides that each driver's license application (including any renewal application) shall serve as an application for voter registration and that the voter registration application portion may not require any information that duplicates information required in the driver's license portion of the form other than a second signature or other necessary information.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles however, does not currently comply with the NVRA’s prohibition on requiring this duplicate information. Rather, a separate voter registration form is simply attached to the driver’s license form which requires the affiant to fill in much duplicate information. This dual form policy was the result of a settlement in a lawsuit to force the State of California to comply with the NVRA when former Governor Pete Wilson refused to implement it.

The Arizona online voter registration system has had the additional effect of automating NVRA registrations at motor vehicle offices thereby eliminating the need to use any additional or duplicative paper forms.

Online Voter Registration in Arizona

The following description was based on information obtained from the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.

The Arizona online voter registration program (EZVoter) was created to help improve the voting process in Arizona by increasing voter registration and improving the quality of the voter registration roll.

The EZVoter program enables citizens of Arizona to register to vote (or update an existing registration) electronically in one of two ways. The first is over the Internet. The citizen simply enters in their unique information to authenticate and provides other voter registration information. The information provided by the citizen is matched instantly with a motor vehicle record. The demographic information from the motor vehicle record along with the digitized signature from the driver license are passed in real time to the Secretary of State's office and become an official voter registration. The EZVoter Internet application can be performed in English or Spanish and is accessed either through the Arizona Secretary of State's or Arizona Motor Vehicle Division's websites.

The second method is at a Motor Vehicle Office. A customer can indicate on their Driver License Application that they wish to register to vote. This information is entered into the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) driver license system and is transferred electronically along with the digitized signature to the statewide voter registration system.

The EZVoter application is also embedded into other motor vehicle e-Government applications such as vehicle renewal and duplicate driver license. When a customer renews their vehicle registration, obtains a duplicate driver license, or changes their address over the Internet, they are offered the opportunity within that e-Government application to register to vote.

The program start-up costs including labor along with software and hardware purchases were less than $100,000. Furthermore, the EZVoter records are instantly recorded. In Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix, the data entry savings in 2006 were the equivalent to eight full time employees since data entry is eliminated with EZVoter.

EZVoter has contributed significantly to an increase in voter registration rates in Arizona since its inception in 2002. Arizona saw a larger increase in voter registration from 2002 to 2004 than any other two-year period. Over 50% of the voter registrations processed in Arizona now are processed electronically through EZVoter.

EZVoter has been successful in ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the statewide voter registration database. Duplicate records are much easier to match when the record includes the driver license and the last four digits of social security number. All EZ Voter records have this information. When a voter moves from one county to another, it is easier to determine that the record is a duplicate with more data points to match.

Other Related Issues

Other issues the committee will explore with the witnesses will include:

  • Pre-registering 16 and 17-year olds to vote: should persons under the age of 18 who are otherwise qualified to vote be pre-registered when they apply for a driver’s license or identification card? Such individuals could register to vote as part of the aforementioned automated process and have their registrations electronically “embargoed” until their 18th birthday.
  • Tracking the success of existing registration programs: can the Secretary of State and local election officials track the source of new and updated registrations? Are voters registering of their own volition? Are existing SOS and other governmental programs working? Is motor voter producing as hoped? Are political parties, campaigns or other nongovernmental efforts producing more?
  • Reconvening the Secretary of State’s Internet Voting Task Force: in January, 2000, the California Internet Voting Task Force, under the auspices of former Secretary of State Bill Jones issued a report concluding that it would not be legally, practically or fiscally feasible to develop a comprehensive remote Internet voting system. Now that several years has elapsed since that report was issued, is it time to explore this issue once again?

Committee Address